Harry Potter and the pretty good book series

So I spent years and years avoiding reading the Harry Potter stories.  I heard early on that the stories were bland; Harold Bloom described the writing as “cliche”.  I did rent and watch the first four movies, and thought they were fairly enjoyable.  Then, in February I had to get a physical for my job.  After perusing the “Food and Wine” magazines, I picked up a copy of the sixth book, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”  I got to the third chapter while waiting my turn, and decided to check out the whole series at the library.  A week and a half after I checked them out, I had finished the series (an advantage of waiting until the series had finished).  Then, I started reading them again, aloud, to my wife.  Then, we bought the series from Barnes & Noble (the library wouldn’t let me check out the last book for a fourth time, and, with the last movie coming out next month, it’s impossible to get the library’s ONE COPY). I was just as interested the second time around.  If you haven’t read the books, even if you’ve seen the movies, I highly recommend getting the books and reading them.  Read them before finishing this blog post, because…

***Spoilers Follow*** 

I’ll give a very brief summary of the books here: 

“Year 1” Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone  This introduces the characters, and the setting.  Harry is an orphan living with his contemptible uncle, aunt, and cousin.  They treat him quite harshly.  Then, he discovers that he is a wizard.  The books were much criticized for tempting children into satanism (or something like that), but the point is that Harry doesn’t just “practice magic”; he is himself a magical being, like the star in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or the elves of Lord of the Rings.  The magic Harry uses, in other words, is not occult in nature.  When we watched the movies, I made the joke that Harry and his companions were “Christian Wizards”, because they celebrated Christmas.  I might be right, for in the books, they also celebrate Easter, the ghost of Hufflepuff house is a friar, and the tombstones of a couple of characters have Bible verses (“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”; “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”; however, Harry doesn’t seem to know that the phrases are Biblical, so I guess I’m wrong).  So Harry learns he has survived the unsurvivable “Killing Curse”, and in the process destroyed the enemy of peace and happiness, who is named “He-who-must-not-be-named”.  AKA Lord Voldemort.  (It’s kind of a running gag that Harry is the only wizard not afraid to speak Voldemort’s name out loud, until the last book, when saying Voldemort’s name can actually get someone into trouble.)  So Voldemort’s dead and Harry has an interesting journey into a new life, until it turns out that Voldemort isn’t really dead, and is living inside the head of one of the professors.  Harry defeats Voldemort (read the book), and all is well, until…

Year 2 “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, in which Voldemort returns in the form of his diary, manifests, and tries to open the titular Chamber, which holds a basilisk.  Harry gets a +10 sword slays the beast, and rescues his best friend’s little sister for 2000 XP.  The sword and the sister and the dead basilisk body will reappear in later tomes.  Oh, the headmaster of the school, Dumbledore, has a pet phoenix named Fawkes who heals Harry with its tears (Harry had gotten poisoned by the basilisk).  So, all is well again, until…

Year 3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which a homicidal maniac named Sirius Black escapes from the unescapable wizard prison of Azkaban.  Dementors, creatures that suck all the happiness out of life (and which I’m pretty sure are based on the U.S. Federal Government), first appear in this book.  Remus Lupin is introduced as the new “Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher” (Harry & company have had three such teachers in as many years), who teaches Harry a magic trick to drive off dementors.  Anyway, it turns out that Sirius Black is a good guy, Ron’s pet rat is the bad guy, and Lupin, Black, the rat (a shape changer named “Wormtail”), and Harry’s dad, James, were all best pals when they were in school.  Everyone thought that Sirius Black had betrayed James and Lily (Harry’s mother) to Voldemort, who killed them.  It turned out that Wormtail was the real traitor.  We also learn that Lily used her love to protect Harry, which is why Voldemort’s killing curse rebounded and hit him instead of Harry.  And here I would like to point out that Voldemort was basically a one-trick pony with a fearsome reputation, which is how Harry (a mediocre wizard except when it came to fighting Voldemort) kept beating him.  ANYWAY, Wormtail escapes when Lupin (a werewolf) forgets to take his medicine and chases everyone off.  Harry and Hermione use a wizard time device to go back in time and set everything right.  Sirius Black informs Harry that he, Sirius, is Harry’s godfather, and invites Harry to live with him, once his name is cleared.  Harry is excited about this prospect because his Uncle/Aunt/Cousin are still insufferable jerks.  All is well until…

And I’m going to break there, for awhile, and pick back up at a later date.


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